Welcome to Instant Reactions, a new weekly feature where I’ll be giving my immediate thoughts on the latest episode. These are unedited, unfiltered feelings on the episode, mostly written during the commercial breaks.
Hit The Road, Jack
Right, there’s a lot to talk about tonight, but let’s start with Jack’s elimination because that vote-off was a doozy.
Let’s face facts, this move was all Kellee. It’s rare that one player single-handedly controls a vote (shoutout Australian Survivor’s Luke Toki), but that’s exactly what Kellee did here thanks to her “moment of inspiration.”
Here’s the quick rundown of events. Dean was the target because old Vokai thought it was best to stick together (while keeping Karishma as a loyal vote). Dean had no idea he was the target because he’d been bamboozled by Jack and Jamal, who told him that Noura was the real target. The conundrum? Kellee had an idol that was about to expire, plus a good relationship with Dean. So why not cook up some magic?
There was a lot of intricate working parts to Kellee’s plan. She couldn’t just suddenly whip out an idol and save Dean. Firstly, that would prove she was lying about her Island of the Idols trip. Secondly, she’d be directly blindsiding her old allies. Thirdly, she’d be presenting herself as a “big moves” style player.
So she had to move covertly. The idea was to fill Dean in on the plan mere minutes before heading to Tribal and hand him the idol. That way, there would be no time to scramble and for Dean to potentially blow things up.
As for the target, it was a toss-up between Jamal or Jack. On the one hand, her connection with Jamal isn’t that strong, and she’s not sure if he’d take her to the end. On the other hand, while she has a closer bond with Jack, he’s much more a post-merge threat due to having connections with multiple players. It was her decision… whichever name she gave Dean to write down would go home.
Or would they? Kellee is a smart, cerebral player. She realized the potential danger of Dean pulling a fast one, using the idol, and then writing down Kellee’s name, which would send her home. So she needed to create a safety net. Keeping up?
As a contingency, Kellee needed to kickstart Noura’s paranoia by bringing up the possibility of Dean having an idol. In that case, it would be a wise idea for Noura to write down Jack or Jamal’s name, just in case Dean used an idol and voted for Noura. This is really brilliant, covering all your bases Survivor play.
What’s even more brilliant is, it worked perfectly… even more so than Kellee could have ever imagined. Not only did Dean play his idol and vote for Jack (as did Noura), but Jamal got scared and decided to play his idol… but for Noura—the woman he knows had previously targeted him and who he’d been arguing with just moments earlier!
But why did the target land on Jack? It can’t just be for the comic irony of Kellee promising not to backstab him until the merge. Was Kellee really afraid of Jack running away with the game post-merge? It’s a reasonable fear, I suppose. Jack has been portrayed as likable and seems to make quick connections. He’s also the type that could go on a Joey Amazing style Immunity run at the merge.
The problem is, Dean could do those things too. Kellee even pointed out two weeks ago that Dean is charming and likable. And that he’s not the type of person you bring into a merge. Now she’s done exactly that… intentionally. But if her connection to him is stronger than she had with Jack, it makes sense. And in an ideal world, Dean would now be loyal to Kellee for saving his life.
But what about those left out of the vote? How will Jamal, Janet, and Karishma react? Will they smell that something fishy went down? In an episode that was all about calculated risk, Kellee took a massive one, and for now, it paid off.
No matter how it plays out in the long-run, this was one of the best single Tribal Council moves in Survivor history.
The First Member of Our Jury
Say what now? In an episode of surprises, Probst’s announcement that Jack was the first jury member was maybe the biggest.
I have no idea why the jury is starting at 14 players remaining. It definitely rings alarm bells that it could be twist/IOI related. Are we going to see the return of the “boot a juror” advantage? That was the first thing that popped into my head.
No Gender Agenda
For the second week in a row, Survivor got into some heavy social issues—this week regarding gender and sexism. Again, I can’t do justice to the beautifully intelligent words that were spoken by the likes of Kellee and Janet tonight, but it’s safe to say it was another powerful scene.
It didn’t have quite the natural start that last week’s incredible race conversation between Jack and Jamal had, mostly due to Probst trying to twist the narrative.
Kellee brought up a fantastic point about this fear of “women’s alliances” that Jamal touched on. It’s been a consistent theme on Survivor for years, and Kellee was right when she said: “the fear of women’s alliances happens more than actual women’s alliances.”
But then Probst tried spinning this fear as a response to the current cultural shift in gender politics. It was a little forced, especially as Kellee had just said this kind of thing has been happening for years.
However, despite Probst sledgehammering his cultural moments, the conversation it kicked started was excellent stuff. Noura talked about the strength of women working together. Karishma spoke about recent cultural events like the Me Too movement. Janet gave an emotional speech about seeing beyond gender and how men have a part to play in supporting powerful women too. “You can’t be a powerful woman without men and women backing you,” Janet stated.
And, to Jamal’s credit, much like Jack last week, he listened and took on board what the women were saying. “I’m appreciating the perspectives,” he said.
It’s another example of why Survivor remains one of the best shows on TV after almost 20 years on the air. It is a microcosm of society, and that means it’s the perfect environment for conversations like this and the one we saw last week. And this happened alongside a #BigMove. See… it is possible to have both!
Sticking with the women for a second, we saw Sandra attempting to make a bet with Rob that a woman will win this season. Rob was reluctant to take the bet… remember the last time he made a bet with Sandra? He thought Coach could climb that coconut tree in Heroes vs. Villains and ended up owing Sandra a dollar.
But is Sandra’s prophecy going to come true? There’s certainly been a running theme of strong women this season… and that is because Survivor has cast a bunch of strong-ass women. The ladies have been dominating… in challenges, at camp, and certainly in the strategic game.
It’s been four seasons since we’ve seen a woman win Survivor… and six seasons since we’ve seen a newbie woman win. So we’re definitely overdue.
Other Bits & Pieces
-There was another scene of Dan inappropriately touching his female tribemates this week and a subsequent discussion about it from the women. In an episode that referenced the MeToo movement, I suspect this is setting things up for another important talk soon.
-I really enjoyed Janet’s trip the IOI, not necessarily because of anything to do with the twist itself (and definitely not the flashback reminder of last season), but because of her reaction. Firstly, her reaction to seeing Rob & Sandra was one of pure shellshock. But then her calm, methodical reaction to the test. As Rob & Sandra mentioned, she was the first person to actually think through her choice and decide it wasn’t worth the risk. Very impressed with Janet’s game so far.
-As for the advantage that Janet could have won… a “safety without power” reward. That basically means she could leave one Tribal Council before the votes are cast. It’s sort of similar to the advantage Luke Toki found in Australian Survivor this season… though with his he could send ANY player back to camp before the votes were cast. I suspect we’ll see this advantage offered to someone else on IOI.